Fire within 

Even if the sky should fall 
And the Earth should open up
Threatening to 
Swallow you through its cracks 
Even if the Ocean should roar
With so much fury 
That it drowns the sandy beaches 
With its rough tsunami waves 
And soft foamy edges 
Even if there was no tomorrow 
Would you choose to stay down 
Cowered in the corner 
Afraid 
Always
Afraid
Or would you choose to
Rise
To trust
Just as the Sun does not know
what it will meet 
Each dawn 
Still
It rises 
With fire
And unimaginable beauty
It does not matter
How stormy the day has been 
Still it sets 
With 
Grace 
And gratitude
So too will you 
Rise 
With a 
Fierce radiance
So too will you
Set
Quietly
But
Boldly
Knowing that today
You lit up 
The whole damn sky.
– Emma Nathan

Divine Homesickness

Longing for a place 

Inside of you

Somewhere 

You may have never even been before

Or somewhere you know

All too well

That inner most place

Where everything is calm 

At peace 

Balanced 

Still

Blissful.

But you’ve missed your road 

And lost your map

And now you don’t know

How to find your way

Back home again. 

Stop searching

Take solace in this simple fact –

You can never be too far away

From

A place

That exists 

Within your very own being. 

Trust

Trust

Keep trusting 

Trust some more

You will find your way back home, 

And it will be a divine reunion. 



-Emma Nathan 

16.04.17

Freedom

Your wings are not broken, sister

You’ve just forgotten how to use them

All these years of silently accepting,

Breathing through the hard times

Always breathing

Sometimes through tears so thick

It feels like they may flood

And you will be carried down stream

And lay stranded on their riverbank

Until they cease to fall

Until all the hurt has left your being

Until you are dry, barren,

Void of all emotion other than

Tiredness

A deep tiredness

So deep you can’t pinpoint its source

Maybe it started before you were born

Perhaps it’s the tiredness that carries

Your parents’ own frustrations and disappointments

Their grief and their longing

Maybe it began the first time you believed

His love to be conditional

That you are not wholly accepted as you are

That you are too emotional, too sensitive, too dependent

Too strong, too fierce, too independent

Perhaps its roots stem from your dreams of

Living in a house where love in action is a way of existing

And when you realised your home is no such place,

That the mountains you will have to climb for it to be the way you dream of,

Will take more energy than you can muster

You feel like giving up and walking away

Starting afresh in a new home untainted

It’s ok to stretch your wings, sister

Just a little at first

Till you remind yourself

How expansive they are

How powerful you are when you remember that you have them

Remember that they belong to you

And you can use them any time you feel the need

That you can strip off everybody else’s disappointment

Even your own

And strut with your head held high

And your bare feet nestled into the earth

So that Mother Nature herself cradles the soles of your feet

In her loving hands and gives you the spring in your

Spirit that you know to always be there

Spread your wings sister,

Feel out the kinks

Let them twist and stretch until they are so satisfied

That they fall to the ground in a

Soul affirming bow,

Namaste

For all that they are

And all that they know they can be

Humbled by their own strength and enduring patience

For they have been waiting,

Restlessly,

Then silently

Trusting that one day you will

Remember they are there

For you

Only

You

Your way out

Of yourself

Of the limitations of the reality you have created

The prison of choices you have made

They are your invitation to

Free yourself

From the false depiction

You have painted

They are the courage you need

To tiptoe to the edge of the cliffs

And open your heart

To be faced with only the complete unknown

The Ocean crashing and raging against the rocks below

Beckoning you to step closer

To feel its warm salty spray on your face

And know that you are not

His angry words booming through the walls of your house

And echoing through the crevices of your Soul

That you are not the confusion and dismay on your child’s face

As he witnesses yet another

Explosive exchange of hurt and disappointment

That you are not your mother’s failed dreams or promises

That you are not anything other than you

At all times

Authentically you

That all you need to do is stretch those wings, sister

Proudly,

Hugely

And enter that nook deep within you where only trust resides

Where kindness is built into the walls,

Stretching from room to room

Interwoven with thoughtfulness and care

Where you have nurtured such a warm environment that honesty flows,

Always

Where mirrors reflect only your true essence,

Goddess

And allow you to see yourself,

Goddess

It is time to release, sister,

All that you think you know

All that you have taught yourself to be

All the heavy weights you’ve been carrying

To put them down

And inch closer to the edge

Spread your wings

And leap, eyes wide open

Soar on the breeze of this moment

Into the only comfort you need

The present

The uncertainty

The beauty

Of being exactly as you are

Just BE -ing

Unapologetically you.

                                                                                    Emma Nathan

                                                                                          27.01.17

I Am, Because You Are

You are the sun to my moon,
the calm to my wild.
You are the ocean to my shore,
the peace to my storm.
You wrap me up in warmth
like a mug of hot ovaltine.
You pour into my Soul
with your silent magic,
your humble strength.
I dreamt of you
before I met you.
I knew it was you
when you gave me the stars,
accepted me with all my scars.
You lingered so long,
that one day there was
no more healing to be done,
only rejoicing.
I will celebrate you
every single day.
In deepest gratitude
for your presence in my life,
for choosing to be here, now
for choosing to love me.
Wild woman…
flowers in my hair,
bare feet in the earth,
free spirit,
heart in desert sunsets,
sleeping atop a car roof
with nothing between us and the sky.
It’s always an adventure
with you and me
exploring forgotten corners of the globe,
climbing ice capped mountains,
with log fires and soothing owl calls to keep us warm at night.
Sweating buckets of smiles across Mama Africa’s sweet terrains.
There is nowhere
I wouldn’t follow you to.
Thank you,
for walking this path with me,
for creating this peaceful perfect existence with me,
for standing side by side with me
in real and true equanimity.
You are my personal sanctuary,
the only place where I can be free.
You are home, to me.

 

(Written for my sweet friend and her husband on their wedding day.)

 

“From African to… Vegan?!” Also, My Recipe for Seriously Good Wholegrain Pumpkin & Pecan Spiced Muffins (no eggs, dairy or refined sugar)

I have long been baking. I have not so long, been baking treats without refined sugar or refined flour because I only cut those bad boys from my life a little over a year ago. It’s a good lifestyle choice, don’t take my word for it, just try it for yourself and see. You have my support!

What I have yet to do, however, is translate some of my kitchen based experiments into blog posts. For those of you, like me, who trawl the internet looking for the perfect recipe to match a) your baked good craving but in a healthy format and b) one that has all the ingredients listed, I am truly sorry for not having posted  a recipe sooner. Why? Because sometimes I create truly magical things in my kitchen and I really do have the best intention of sharing the magic with all of you but until now I just haven’t succeeded. Sometimes I conjur up baked goods that give me the urge to take them round to local cafes and artisan coffee shops and say “taste these and tell me you wouldn’t want to sell these??” Most especially because there isn’t one drop of refined sugar in any of them. Well, I’m not quite there yet (because baking mass orders with a toddler at my heels doesn’t appeal at this present moment. In his defence, he is a very helpful mixer and batter taster.)

Today I really do have to share a recipe with you, because it is that good. It was an experiment which many of my creations are, after searching high and low on pinterest and google and then finding a recipe or two and tweaking them or mashing them up or just being inspired to create something new. These muffins tick all the boxes. Really light and fluffy but deliciously moist. Full of autumn flavours… with pumpkin, pecans, maple syrup and warming spices in the mix you really can’t go wrong. Also it’s a really simple recipe and easy to make.

 

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The desire to create these perfect muffins was born out of my partner, Mr S’s recent decision to become more conscious of what he puts in his body. I am very excited about this and wholeheartedly support his journey into cleaner eating. Mr S is actually drawn to Dr Sebi’s mucus reducing, non-hybrid, alkalinizing, plant based diet. There is much to discuss about this topic, but I will save that for another post.

Most significantly, this is quite a big leap for Mr S, who until now, has had a lifetime of eating all food groups and didn’t really care too much about whether something had gluten in or not or what impact dairy had on his body. My South African friend had quite a comical response to this when she was trying to make sense of it all…. “Wait so he’s going from…African… to Vegan??!” Hm. I know this friend well enough to know there was no offence intended here, but no Mr S is not changing his ethnicity. He is however breaking free from considerable and deep rooted cultural norms with regards to his diet, especially as an African. I think my friend was actually more shocked by the fact that she (having recently given up all refined sugar and flours) is clutching onto meat as her saving grace, and in swans a fellow African who is just casually giving it all up in one fair swoop.

Having lived half of each year in Nigeria for the past 5 years I can confidently say that there are not too many vegans, or vegetarians running around Lagos. There are some though, I’m quite sure of that. I would love to hear from anyone out there who chooses to eat a whole foods plant based diet (like we strive to) that might be reading this. How has your journey been? How have people responded to your choices?

There is a growing movement of people becoming increasinlgy aware of the impact of their diet (and lifestyle) on their bodies, their mind, their spirit and the planet. Let’s keep the discussion flowing so we can all keep growing. Most importantly – there is no judegment here, each to his own.

So, back to these muffins. I like to bake for my people and as such I wanted to bake something without eggs or dairy that doesn’t compromise on texture or taste. Today’s recipe is fully intentional. It uses wholegrains, healthy fats and there are no animal products or refined sugar in sight 🙂 These muffins embody autumn and I think that’s the secret as to why they are so yummy.

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Mother Nature is just so delicious at this time of year, with her warming colours and intoxicating flavours. I baked her right into a muffin, and let me tell you this muffin is divine. Also, they happen to be perfect with a steaming hot cup of golden milk (tumeric, raw honey, a little coconut oil and milk of choice – keep the lurgies off your back during cold & flu season!)

Let me know if you bake these and how they turn out. It is possible this was just a fluke awesome batch in which case I’m already regretting not freezing half of them. It’s too late now, my child has already eaten half of them. A quick note on ingredients – I think the only tricky thing to find is the whole dired stevia leaves (I found some at a farmer’s market in Portugal over the summer then ground it in a coffee grinder which really isn’t going to help any of you looking for some BUT you can buy it on amazon etc.) Honestly though this is not an essential part of the recipe it was really more part of the experiment and can easily be left out. Enjoy!

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Wholegrain Pumpkin & Pecan Spiced Muffins

(No eggs, dairy or refined sugar)

Makes 10 – 12 muffins

Note: this recipe is in US cup measurements but I will try and translate it to grams and ml at some point! Also, in general the more ingredients you can get organic the better.

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 level tablespoon gluten free baking powder
  • 1 heaped teaspoon (I mean really heaped) mixed spice. Add a bit more for good measure
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon  (you can really add any other spices you like… nutmeg etc.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground dried stevia leaf (not the white stuff you find in supermarkets, I mean the real stuff from the plant itself – you can buy online or simply leave it out if you don’t have it and add a bit more maple syrup if you like things sweet)
  • Pinch sea salt (optional)
  • Chopped nuts of choice, I used pecans because they compliment the flavours oh so well. As much or as little as you like!

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin or butternut squash (steamed till really soft & then blitzed)
  • 1/2 cup dairy free milk (I used Rude Health almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil (or coconut oil, olive oil etc.)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup (more if you like it sweeter)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180°C
  • Mix all your dry ingredients in a bowl
  • Mix all your wet ingredients in a separate bowl till fully combined (hand or electric mixer)
  • Slowly fold your combined wet ingredients into combined dry ingredients
  • Grease a 12-muffin pan with a little oil of choice
  • Scoop the batter into each muffin hole till they are equally filled
  • Sprinkle some chopped nuts and cinnamon on top if you’re feeling fancy
  • Bake for 16 -18 mins. Check at 16 mins, an inserted toothpick or knife will come out clean when they are ready
  • Trasnfer muffins to cooling rack if you can wait but it is totally acceptable to eat these steaming hot from the oven.

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Returning Samba to the Afro-Brazilian Returnees in Lagos

Last May the Guardian UK reported that Lagos Carnival had lost touch with its Brazilian roots. Truly, the Carnival as it stands today is a typical manifestation of money in the hands of the wrong people. It is mass produced costumes and sound systems blaring overly familiar Naija pop music while dance troupes perform carefully choreographed acrobatics routines. To a spectator who has experienced Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and even London’s infamous Notting Hill Carnival, Lagos Carnival is disappointing, and couldn’t be further from the essence of Carnival arts. What the reporter did not know, however, was that after fighting tooth and nail to be included in the event, Nigeria’s first ever Brazilian style Samba School, Èkó Samba Community, participated in Lagos Carnival 2015. They were the only live drumming group at the event and they unintentionally upstaged every other performance group there.

Èkó Samba Community is a non-profit group based in Satellite Town, Lagos, which aims to engage and empower children and young people through creative arts, namely Brazilian Samba drumming. Despite wearing only simple white trousers, traditional Yoruba caps and bright aqua-blue t-shirts with ‘Bateria’ proudly emblazoned across their backs, the young people of Èkó Samba Community stole the show with their vibrant Samba Batucada beats and hypnotic Samba Reggae rhythms.

The drummers and dancers brought true Brazilian flare and spirit to the event!

The drummers and dancers of Èkó Samba Community brought true Brazilian flare and spirit to Lagos Carnival 2015.

This year something even more spectacular took place. Thanks in part to Ms Mark’s article, the founder and Musical Director of Èkó Samba Community, Seyi Ajeigbe, has forged a relationship with the Nigerian Descendants of Brazilians union group based in the Brazilian Quarters of Lagos Island, also known as ‘Popo Aguda.’ This was where the formerly Nigerian returnee slaves from Brazil came back to in Lagos once they were freed.

On 28th March 2016, Easter Monday, history was made in Nigeria as Èkó Samba Community brought Samba home to Popo Aguda for the first time. Seventeen children and young people aged between 8 – 21 years, held their drums anxiously, waiting for a signal to start playing. They were stood outside the Pavilion – a local establishment erected in 1998 to commemorate 100 years since the abolition of slavery in Brazil. The Onipopo (cultural leader) of Popo Aguda, Dr MacGregor, explained that this establishment is their “cultural signpost,” the meeting place for community events and the starting point of each Fanti Carnival year on year.

Fanti carnival is the legacy of the Afro-Brazilian Nigerian descendants in Lagos. It was started over 100 years ago and up until this year, it has taken place annually in December and around Easter time, organised by the Brazilian Campos Carretta Carnival Association. An insightful chat with Mr DaSilva, first Vice President of the Association, informed me that this year, sadly, the State Government did not to allow access to funds for either Fanti Carnival or its commercialised child, Lagos Carnival, forcing a break in more than a century long tradition. Every other carnival in Lagos and Nigeria, including the now infamous Calabar Carnival, was born out of this event, steeped in Brazilian traditions brought back and held onto by the Afro-Brazilian descendants. Back then, however, Fanti Carnival was a beautiful display of hand-sewn costumes, traditional dancing and live brass bands with the different regions of the Brazilian district competing for prestige in various categories including best performance, costume and crown. Members of the community I spoke with became wistful and animated as they recounted their grandfathers and fathers sewing costumes or constructing magnificent crowns from their carnival base or “Fanti house” such as the Damazio home on Igbosere street.

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This iconic bull’s head greets visitors as they enter Popo’s Pavilion.

Despite there being no Carnival this year for them to enjoy, families still gathered beneath canopies outside their family homes, sharing a meal as they do every year with children and grandchildren travelling back from foreign countries far and wide to all be together. The Onipopo shared his disappointment, “all the indigenes of this place, the ones of the Diaspora, the ones from London and so on, always come here … now they have come here and there is nothing for them to see.”

I met four members of the Vera Cruz family sitting on the doorstep of their Portuguese style house, sharing pepper soup and watching the commotion unfold in front of them as the Bateria prepared to perform. The only son discussed with his two sisters and mother how their great-grandfather, a goldsmith, was the first of their family lineage to return to Lagos in the 1800s. They spoke of how they watch Brazilian Carnival each year on television and one of the sisters wanted to know where her child could learn to dance Samba the way they have seen, “I like that Samba dance” she said. Mr Vera Cruz spoke of the enduring family connection to Brazil, including visits to Bahia to see family who are still based there and a ‘Labo’ masquerade that was brought from Bahia and is now displayed in the Vera Cruz household.

The women of the Vera Cruz family seated on the doorstep of the first house their great grandfather first lived in upon his return from Brazil.

The women of the Vera Cruz family seated on the doorstep of the first house their great grandfather first lived in upon his return from Brazil.

If you closed your eyes you would be forgiven for thinking you were in Brazil. Samba drums proudly and rhythmically calling people up from their seats and out of their homes to move their feet any way they can. But the incessant beeping of horns and bus conductors hollering out the route destination to potential passengers, served as an abrupt reminder that we were in fact in the hustle and bustle of Lagos, Nigeria.

Perhaps the most excited member of Èkó Samba Community was the Musical Director himself, Ajeigbe, who had only dreamed of a moment like this when he decided to bring Samba “back to Africa” in 2011. Having played Brazilian music for more than 10 years the Nigerian/British musician is now giving his local community something he longed for as a child – a place that would enable him to escape his daily struggles as his mother worked hard to raise him and his four siblings in a sprawling African ghetto by herself. A space in which he could bring to life the music from his imagination. A place where he could simply, play a drum and get lost in the music. Since discovering Samba in London in 2004, Ajeigbe imagined returning it to the continent where the very roots of this music had originated.

Before the drumming could commence, Ajeigbe poured libation on the doorstep of the Pavilion, paying respect to the forefathers and mothers of the returnee Afro-Brazilian descendants, honouring those who had embarked on that journey all those years ago, leaving their African Motherland for the complete unknown. “It is the most significant thing that we have ever done since the existence of Èkó Samba Community,” he said. “It is very important to connect the Afro-Brazilian music that we are trying to lend, with the Afro-Brazilian people living in the very place that we are trying to develop this culture. I am honoured to bring the culture of these people’s ancestors to them.” He compared the Nigerian descendants here in Lagos to the Afro-Brazilians in Brazil, “they need to hold onto their identity, because if they let it go it will disappear,” drawing on a Yoruba saying, “odo ti o’ba gbagbe orisun e, gbigbe ni a’gbe,” which translates as “the river that forgets its source, will dry up.”

And thus Ajeigbe called in the Bateria with a blow of his whistle and the tap of his charuto drum, beckoning people both present and past, to bear witness with their laughter and dance.

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Seyi Ajeigbe, Musical Director of Èkó Samba Community was honoured and humbled to bring Samba to it’s rightful home in the Brazilian Quarters of Lagos for the first time.

Even within Brazil, people disagree about the origins of Samba. To date, the oldest form of Samba that is still currently practiced is Samba de Roda, also known as Samba Chula, which is indigenous to Cachoueira. This region in Bahia was the primary port where slave ships docked, bringing human cargo by their thousands from West Africa, for example from the Portugese Barracao in Badagry, Lagos, which acted as a half-way house for those destined for uncertain futures across the Atlantic Ocean. The slaves were transported from Cachoueira to Salvador Mercado Modelo, which was the largest slave depot in the Americas.

One thing that Brazilians will all agree on about the birth of Samba is that it came from the terreiros – temples in which African deities are worshipped through the practices of Candomblé, Umbanda, and Macumba. Rootsy rhythms were born out of the spiritual songs and beats within the terreiros and were later translated so that they could be palatable and transferable to a secular audience. And thus, modern day Samba was born and as it travelled across the vast Brazilian land took on different shapes and sounds and blended with various folk music to create today’s diverse array of Sambas from Samba Reggae in Salvador to Maractu in Pernambuco.

Mr Bayo Damazio, whose grandfather was one of the original forefathers who brought Fanti Carnival to Lagos, clearly enjoyed his first experience of live Samba in Lagos. As the drummers literally stopped traffic in the street and caused quite a jam in the narrow crossroads of Popo Aguda, Damazio didn’t even seem to notice as he whistled and danced as though he had been listening to Samba all his life. He told me afterwards that he found the group “quite impressive” and insisted they perform at his daughter’s upcoming wedding. Damazio had earlier admitted that, “honestly speaking the connection is just not there…” at present, between contemporary Brazil and the Nigerian descendants. It is not for lack of determination though, as he said earnestly, “but we are trying to re-connect.”

Bayo Damazio happily welcomed the live Samba drumming with flamboyant dance moves.

Bayo Damazio happily welcomed the live Samba drumming with flamboyant dance moves.

Dance DM

“We are Brazilians,” proclaimed Onipopo boldly, who although is not a descendant himself, was born and raised in the Brazilian Quarters. The connection today may not be as close as it could be, but there is no denying that deep in the spirit of the Afro Brazilian descendants lies a permanent and prevailing link to their roots. More than just their Brazilian surnames, the people of this community resemble closely their Brazilian counterparts from their strong family unity and love for music and festivities to name a few. Deeper than that, though, it is clear that their very identities are intrinsically entangled with their ancestral past. Onipopo alluded to the “cross-fertilisation of culture” that has occurred between Africa and Brazil, “they brought the Carnival [to Lagos]” he said, “whilst over there in Brazil, Africans left their legacy in the form of the Orixas,” or African Deities that are today worshipped more openly and widely outside of countries like Nigeria where they originate from.

As Onipopo shared his insightful knowledge on the Brazilian connection here in Lagos with me, we were offered hot akara (fried bean cake), a traditional Yoruba food that you will find in Salvador, Bahia, today where it is known as ‘acaraje.’ The Afro-Brazilian adaptation of this tasty delicacy is larger, usually crammed full of extras like prawns, okra and salad, and widely available at festivals and Carnivals as a street snack. It was quite poignant to see it being shared amongst the members at the Pavilion on this eventful day.

Onipopo of Popo Aguda, Dr MacGregor is the cultural leader of the community and a keen advocate for further connecting the dots between Nigeria and Brazil.

Onipopo of Popo Aguda, Dr MacGregor, is the cultural leader of the community and a keen advocate for further connecting the dots between Nigeria and Brazil.

It may not have been the spiritual experience I was anticipating, but it was the most spirited and soulful performance that Èkó Samba Community has ever given. Their drums carried so much more than just sound, bringing with them the energy and spirit of ancestors past. Tobi Ijadola, has been playing Samba with the group for a year and a half and reflected on the experience on the bus back home to Satellite Town.

“I am happy and privileged to be part of the team that is playing this samba in the Brazilian Quarters for the first time, bringing it to the owners for the first time in Africa. I can say that today’s performance is one of the most special ones and it’s one of the most important ones we have ever done and one of the best performance I’ve been included in ever since I joined the community band. I feel very happy that finally people are beginning to recognise samba in Africa…we are trying to bring it back and I’m happy to be part of that team. I think that today’s performance was well accepted by the people of this community. We were able to bring back the spirits of the slaves that went and came back.”

It was also a highlight performance for Emmanuel Offe, who has been drumming with Èkó Samba Community since it was established in 2011 and has played throughout Lagos, and at Calabar Carnival in 2014. Offe added that

“I really enjoyed myself today…we just did a great thing in bringing back our history to our country. I never had this kind of experience playing to our ancestors but I loved it so much.”

 Èkó Samba Community were filled with pride to be performing to the Afro-Brazilian descendants for the first time.

Èkó Samba Community were filled with pride to be performing to the members of Popo’s Pavilion for the first time.

For those of us who were there, the auspiciousness of the day was undeniable. The energetic and captivating Samba sounds were enough to shake awake the spirits and ghosts of Afro-Brazilian forefathers and mothers, and ignite fire within those who work so hard to preserve their roots. This was a poetic example of the positive legacy that has been born out of the epistemic violence that was slavery. Yes, positives exist, and the exchange, assimilation, preservation and dispersal of culture, be it here in Africa, in Brazil or beyond, as a direct result of the slavery era, is just one manifestation of this. Onipopo told the members of Èkó Samba Community after their performance was over,

“you have arrived at Popo Aguda. It is not easy for Onipopo to recommend people but you can see what you have achieved…I hope you will be coming here more often.”

Let’s hope that with the arrival of those drum beats comes a stronger connection between two kindred lands and their people.

 

The Secret to Giving Birth (like a Badass Mofo)

Today I’m writing for my sister. My actual big sister, who is soon to bring her second child into the world. Also for any and every other woman who comes across this post, whether you’re expecting or not, because to me we are all part of one universal sisterhood.

My big sister is an incredible woman. I mean truly, she’s a force of nature. She is a wonderful loving mum to her little girl, a conscientious wife to her very hard working husband, a super daughter and sister to all the family (and we are a seriously big family), a caring and generous friend and she’s really good at her day job too.

My sister is also the biggest control freak I know. And I say that with complete and genuine love and affection 🙂

Pragmatic, organised beyond imagination, and the master of forward planning. She also happens to be the family’s best prankster (but we’ll save those stories for another time). She’s the kind of person who has all of her Christmas presents bought and wrapped before we reach December. The kind of person who has highly detailed plans before any ‘event’ (her daughter’s birthday party for example) with tasks and stations allocated to the ‘party committee’ (her husband and sisters). I mean I really need you to understand how deep the control factor goes… think someone who secretly plans her own ‘surprise’ hen do… and forbids her younger sisters from drinking a drop of alcohol at her wedding until after they’ve given their speech* (yes even at the champagne toast!).

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And we all love her for it. We embrace every last neurotic drop of control and organisation. Without her insane levels of planning we wouldn’t have half as many family gatherings as we do and we’re definitely grateful for that.

But… my sister, who I love, respect and admire in so many ways… I have taken it upon myself to be the bearer of vital information for you. As you prepare to bring what I’m 150% sure will be the world’s cutest baby boy ever, into the world in a few short weeks, I need to share with you the big secret to giving birth so that you might have a different experience from the first time round…

Before you start protesting, don’t worry it’s not the pre-natal yoga I’ve been trying to convince you to do, or the hypnobirthing breathing techniques. It’s not the essential oils or homeopathy I promised would help. And you’ll be relieved to know it’s not even the “you-know-what” massage I’ve been assuring you will make all the difference (well actually I still stand firmly by this one it really will help when the time comes to get baby’s head out!)**

No, the secret I want to share with you is nothing remotely practical like any of these things… which for you, I guess is going to make it so much worse to swallow. I’m just warning you now, you’re not going to like it. But nonetheless you should definitely embrace it ….

Let go.

If your amazing little girl hasn’t already taught you, nor the two pregnancies you’ve experienced thus far, this second baba is definitely going to remind you that as much as you might want to, you simply cannot control everything. Please take this as a not so subtle hint to stop all those wacky ideas of evicting him early so he’ll be “smaller to push out”… nice try but it doesn’t work that way!

Instead I urge you to please let go of every single preconceived notion you have about giving birth. Most especially the fears. Let go of your ability to plan everything. Despite your best efforts, you will not be able to plan how or when or even where your baby is born. Tiny as he is, he calls all the shots on this one. Trust me when I say that it’s actually a really good thing. Have complete faith in your sweet child and trust that he will choose the perfect moment to join us in this world, all you have to do is allow him to. Trust your magnificent body, that when the time comes it will know exactly what to do.

In letting go, letting be, there is peace, silence and clarity that arise from complete abandonment. Let life be.

-Mooji

 

Don’t resist.

Once you accept that this is a situation in which you simply have no control over, it will instantly become a thousand times easier. That may sound like an oxymoron but it isn’t. Lean into the birth experience like you would lean into a triple layer chocolate fudge cake. Eyes closed, a smile on your face and complete blind faith that you’re about to experience something amazing… because you are!

Just be.

Be fully present in each and every moment. That incredible ability you have to focus and get shit done (truly, nobody gets shit done like you) is going to take over you; mind, body and spirit. Let yourself go into that state of mind that beckons you when the time comes. That incredible birthing zone. Harness the power from deep inside of you and just know that you can do this.

It really doesn’t matter how you choose to birth your baby, or how you end up birthing him. Whether it’s in a hospital room with “all the drugs”, or in a stream by the light of the full moon. All that matters to you and baby is that you give in to whatever happens. That you are open and accepting, you embrace the unknown, the unknowable.

Trust your intuition, always, because you are powerful.

The challenge… Or opportunity that birthing gives us to call on our higher selves is really just a reflection of life itself. Once we give up attempting to control everything, we are able to live authentically from moment to moment. Only when we let go can we experience the magic that is just waiting to happen all around us. And giving birth is truly one of the most magical moments life has to offer.

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So… my sister, I knew you probably wouldn’t like what I had to say, but I also promise you that like everything you put your mind to, you can absolutely do this. I know that, your baby definitely knows that, and if you search deep inside of yourself I’m quite sure you know it too.

You are badass. And giving birth is badass. Why else do you think Mother Nature has women in charge of arguably the most important physiological human process? 😉

Let yourself go… And enjoy the magic.

 

*Confession: Mandy and I downed a glass of wine together before we hit the stage but it was for dutch courage and anybody who was there can attest that we delivered a grand if not slightly humorous speech… ok… we were pretty much the laughing stocks of the wedding… I see why the no alcohol clause was imposed now.

** Pregnant mamas, I highly recommend perineum massage in the build up to giving birth. Drop me a comment if you’d like me to elaborate in any way!

Orilami

Orilami is a Yoruba name meaning “my Soul clears my path.”

Journal excerpt ::  2nd October 2014

Location :: our studio flat, South West London

As we approach one year from one of the most powerful, poignant, Soul affirming days of my life I have been reflecting a lot about the day that my first baby was born. I wanted to share with you some words from my journal a couple of days after that life changing experience…

Orilami

Just like that, you’re here.

And my heart cannot stop singing.

And my Soul cannot stop celebrating.

I will celebrate YOU for the rest of my life.

Just like your journey to us was unpredictable, perfectly timed and natural, so too was your journey to meet us from inside me to this world outside.

The hardest yet most rewarding thing I’ve ever done was work with my body to help bring you out.

I will never forget the opportunity you gave me to experience the full ability (physical, emotional, spiritual) of my body and my self.

I am grateful.

Grateful for trusting in you, me and nature.

Grateful for having the confidence to achieve the beautiful birth I know was possible.

Grateful for your very existence.

I wish I could bottle the feeling I had post-birth so that I can remind myself at just a whiff that…

I CAN DO ANYTHING.

father & son

Some thoughts…

As my first child’s first Earthday rapidly approaches, it serves as a beautiful gratitude reminder… and all I have to do is look at this little bundle of energy walking in a drunken fashion all around the room he was born in, stumbling, falling, laughing and getting back up to carry on trying, perfecting his latest skill…and I feel immediately and immensely grateful.

My first giving-birth-day is also an incredible reminder to my self of the power I have within. Truly, I wish I had been able to bottle that post-giving-birth-feeling as there have certainly been times since then when I have needed reminding of my capacity for greatness. In the absence of that magical elixir I’d like to share with you instead this lovely podcast from two honest and courageous women. Big Strong Magic is a discussion between authors Elizabeth Gilbert and Brene Brown about the importance of BEing our truest selves and expressing that truth without the fear of failure. Because, quite simply, to deny ourselves that raw honesty and creative outlet far outweighs the risk of failure… even more so, that the word failure doesn’t even have a place when we’re talking dreams, creativity and the expression of our highest selves.

So inch as close to the edge as possible, then take three steps back…. so you can take a full run up before you LEAP.

And when you do leap, enjoy every second of that free fall, because really, the landing is completely irrelevant.

The Beauty of Birth

** Disclaimer ** This is a fairly long post so you’ll need a nice cup of tea before you sit down and immerse yourself in one mama’s birthing journey.

Orlilami… you just took your first step… and I feel almost as incredible as I did when I first met you. So I think it’s finally about time to share the story of the day you were born.

I’d like to dedicate this post to the few friends of mine who are soon expecting to bring a little Soul into our world, and to every expectant mother out there preparing to meet the sweet baby they have been growing inside of them. The journey of birthing a baby is nothing short of empowering, incredible and entirely beautiful and I want to simply share that sentiment with all of you.

Orilami was born on a sunny Sunday in late September. But before taking you through the day on which he arrived, I first need to go back two days to a sunny Friday afternoon in September.

:: Friday ::

I had planned to visit my younger sister Mimi’s new place, and although I had an odd intuition and considered not going, the sun was shining and I felt full of energy so off I went with bump across London. We had a lovely stroll by the river and as we sat down to enjoy the fresh scones we had just baked to warm her new home, I had the waters-breaking-movie-scene that midwives tell you not to expect. I calmly told Mimi that I was fairly sure my waters had just broken, the excitement already rushing to my head…. Baby was coming… NOW!! The terrified look on Mimi’s housemate’s face had me reassuring her that I wouldn’t actually give birth on the floor of their living room, I still had a long way to go before baby arrived, but that I should probably be heading home now. We packed up the scones and made a few phones calls… I still can’t forget the alarm in my partner Seyi’s voice: “why are you calling me?? Call the midwife!”

Note to all expectant mothers: the rush hour tube is not the best place for a mama-to-be leaking copious amounts of liquid from her nether regions. But after a stop at the supermarket to pick up some labour supplies (baby or no baby, we’d need to eat, surely) that is exactly what I did… took the rush hour tube home, hoping all the while that there wasn’t going to be a puddle around me when I left the carriage!

I arrived home to a beautiful, serene flat. Seyi had cleaned, tidied, lit candles, had gentle music playing, incense burning and was ready to inflate our birthing pool (we rented on from here, and highly recommend). I explained that, actually, I wasn’t yet in labour so it’d probably be best to wait a while before we did that.

We had chosen to have a home birth and had rented a birthing pool after learning the benefits of warm water during labour. Although we didn’t go on a course, we had studied the Katherine Graves hypnobirthing method thanks to the lending of a book and cds by lovely friend and incredible independent midwife Kemi.

Hynobirthing resonated strongly with us because at its core is the belief that all women are capable of giving birth naturally, if they simply trust their bodies and trust their babies. We feel that the medicalisation of birth is unnecessary, which is why our home felt like the most natural place to bring our baby into the world. Peaceful, sacred, comfortable. I’m not going to use this post to share views on birthing in the modern world, but I will say this: there is a lot of fear surrounding birth today. A fear that has become buried deep in our psyches and needs to be un-learnt. Women need to be reminded of something which is actually hardwired into our bodies… our beings. Mother Nature knows what she is doing, and she is an absolute genius when it comes to the wonder of the female body and how it adapts to grow a baby inside of it, let alone what it does during birth and after the baby has arrived. So pregnant mamas, know this: YOU CAN AND YOU WILL. Your body is absolutely magnificent and it will not let you down. It will leave you in awe at what it is capable of. Mine certainly did!

Back to our story…

We hadn’t actually realised that it’s considered a bad thing when your waters break before contractions start. Neither of us was prepared for what followed… one of our lovely midwives visited us that Friday evening and apologised for having to be the ‘Angel of Doom’. All of our excitement slowly faded away as we were told about the risks of having Prelabour Spontaneous Rupture of Membranes (PSROM) and why if nothing happened within 24 hours I would have to come into hospital to be induced.

Hm.

Here are some things we learned from said lovely midwife and our dear friend Kemi along the way on this twist of the journey:

  • The 24 hour “time limit” (that is exactly what it felt like) is based on protocols from the hospital’s insurers and has very little to do with the health and safety of mother or baby;
  • If I lived in a different postcode in the UK I may have a different time limit, on the other side of London for example expectant mamas who experience PSROM get 48 hours before they are asked to come into hospital to be induced;
  • 10 years ago the NHS used to give women up to 5 days with leaking waters before they were asked to come into hospital to be induced;
  • Evidence shows that it is safe to hold out up to 95 hours for a baby to be born from when waters break prematurely;
  • Women have held out a lot longer and still delivered perfectly healthy happy babies!

Here’s a note to anyone who is currently going through a similar journey: there is no need for anyone to check whether your waters have broken by doing a vaginal exam. It is an invasive examination that could open the risk for infections. Keep an eye on your temperature and stay, as you have been, completely in tune to your baby. You will know if something is wrong because you are completely connected to that tiny being inside of you. Babies are so clever that they continue to produce the amniotic fluid they need while still inside the womb. So relax, and trust that the surges are coming. Rest, because when those waves do arrive you will need all your energy to ride them.

Unfortunately for me the stress and pressure of a 24 hour time limit really got to me. I didn’t get much sleep that night. There was an internal battle going on… one side of me willing my surges to start and the other reminding me to just wait patiently, that everything would happen when the time was right. I watched the clock like a ticking time bomb. I can’t tell you how huge of a challenge this was, and at such a critical time. Throughout my pregnancy we had done so much work in the preparation of this moment to undo the deep-seated fears that prevail today around giving birth. But this unexpected challenge really tested my strength and conviction. I trusted that baby was absolutely fine, and that my body would let me know otherwise, but I knew that I did not want to be induced. For those of you that don’t know, there are a lot of risks associated with induced labour and that was something I wanted to avoid at all costs, especially if it wasn’t actually necessary, but as a precaution. I knew that baby knows best. Truly, they do. Also, on a physiological level, that in order for labour to progress naturally, mamas need to be relaxed so that their bodies can begin releasing the oxytocin (also known as the love or happy hormone) which would send signals where they needed to be sent in the body letting them know that it’s time to bring baby out.

My father tells me I’m strong-headed… Seyi tells me that in Yoruba, head and Soul are the same word (Ori) so in fact I am strong-Soul-ed. I much prefer that! And strong-willed I was. I held my ground, dug my feet in, and refused to go into hospital for a check up the next day. I felt baby moving as usual and I was in perfect health, no signs of infection or fever so we believed it was the right decision to stay in the comfort of our home and allow nature to continue taking it’s course.

:: Saturday ::

Fortunately for me, the home birth team were quite busy with other mamas popping out babies on Saturday so nobody paid me a visit. There were a few phone calls trying to persuade me to come into hospital (I’ll refrain from NHS bashing but there was a good amount of scaremongering). I resisted and explained that as I felt completely fine, I would like to give things until the next morning to see how the labour had progressed. Although contractions had not started, I had had my “show” and I was feeling things…twinges… I knew things were progressing at exactly the pace baby needed. A reassuring talk with Kemi gave me the courage and confidence to continue waiting for surges to start naturally.

I am blessed with an abundance of loving sisters, a couple of whom came to keep me company, and deliver a care package from my eldest sister, Tasha, including an amazing home made “labour cake” (almond and raspberry… Mmm). We ate chilli with every meal (this is pretty standard anyway so didn’t feel too unnatural) at the midwife’s suggestion and Mimi and I attempted some reflexology, until I had enough and decided that all I actually needed to do was RELAX and let baby just BE. We watched crappy tv shows to take my mind of things, and at one point Seyi and Mimi broke into a beautiful spontaneous jam session (on acoustic bass and ukele) which cheered me up immensely. Surround yourself with good people who trust the birthing process and enable you to feel entirely comfortable in your choices. I can’t tell you enough how important that is, during pregnancy and most especially during labour.

I didn’t get much sleep the next night either… but my mind was much more at ease, I knew baby would be coming soon. It was truly out of my hands. I focused on how incredible it would feel to finally meet my little one.

:: Sunday ::

At around 6am, the thing I had been patiently (and impatiently) willing to start finally began. And then I wished they hadn’t!! Wow… my surges packed a punch from the word go but I just took each one as they came. Breathing is definitely essential… I breathed my way through each and every surge… eyes closed, focused. I changed position a lot… from bouncing on an exercise ball which felt great in the early stages, to kneeling on the sofa, squatting, sitting on the loo… you name it, I tried it! Seyi was there with hugs and back rubs whenever I needed them. Hugging is incredibly powerful during labour. In fact anything that helps your body to continue releasing oxytocin is a must.

Seyi’s twin sister, Ayo, arrived mid morning – as a midwife she was our natural choice for a second birthing partner and I am so grateful she was here with us. She took me out for a walk around the block, which took almost 2 hours as I had to stop for each surge. I was inhaling a Clary Sage soaked tissue in between waves and giving thanks that labour had started naturally. Seyi asked Ayo repeatedly if it was time to fill the pool… he kept being told no, I wasn’t yet in active labour but it was ok for him to inflate it and get it ready.

Labour is the hardest thing I’ve ever done… made harder by the fact that I was extremely tired from two nights of no sleep and unnecessary worry. Each surge is different so you have no idea what to expect, but you just keep breathing and know that it will end … it has to! Surges are so immensely powerful, but I’ll tell you this, so is your body. I went so deep inside myself, working in synchronicity with my baby, focused, breathing, responding to each and every sensation as it came to me and then letting it go and resting before the next one.

A few hours later, I had thrown up the piece of toast I’d had in the morning, had a nice warm shower which felt amazing on my body and had spent two hours laying down trying to rest in between the surges, which by now were coming fast and furious. I was positively in the zone. But I was also exhausted! I can’t stress how important it is to rest in the build up to and early stages of giving birth.

Note: Staying hydrated is really important during birth but also keeping your energy levels up. Although I drank lots of water, I realised after giving birth that I had gone the whole day on a piece of dry toast and a mini twix (that Tasha had had the incredible foresight to send over in my labour care package!) Once baby was out I was totally famished and raided the fridge as soon as I could. My advice to all the expectant mothers reading this now, check out Mama Natural’s great list of her top ten essentials for a natural labour including energy boosting, healthy snacks, here.

I suddenly felt the need to pooh and Ayo got an excited twinkle in her eye as she knew this meant the time for baby to arrive was soon approaching. She said it was time to call the midwife who was in fact already on her way over just to check in. Ayo had full respect for my decision to have a home birth, and trusted the natural process, so she had delayed calling the midwife to reduce any unnecessary or too early examinations. She told me that she was waiting for “other Emma” to come out … the one that would scream and shout. Ayo knew women in labour and that is what they did. Ha! I calmly told her this was me at the peak of my threshold. It hurt like hell but I was riding the waves as calmly as possible and there would be no screaming… but that I’d be quite happy for the surges to end now please! Ayo gave me a couple of paracetamol (I think she felt sorry for me by this point!) but I really don’t think they were a match for the surges at all as I didn’t feel any difference… in hindsight I’d prefer to have not taken them at all, but it was all part of the process and I’m grateful for how everything played out.

My midwife arrived at around 2pm to check in on baby since it had now been 36 hours + since my waters had broken and she wanted to see how things were progressing (and continued to remind me that I should have come into hospital for some antibiotics in case there was something wrong). Her timing was perfect as I was starting to wane and told Seyi that I didn’t feel like I could take any more. I was exhausted and couldn’t face another surge, that maybe some gas & air would help. Seyi gave me a warm embrace and told me not to worry, this meant that baby was ready to come out because my body wouldn’t put me through more than it could handle. He was so confident, so sure, just as he had been throughout the whole experience, that baby would come when he or she was ready. And that time was now. I wished with all my might that he was right and allowed his calmness and certainty to soothe me.

A note here on taking antibiotics or changing your birth venue from home to hospital if you experience PSROM (loving helpful advice from Kemi when we needed it the most): there really is no need to take antibiotics in case the baby develops an infection. Once baby is born and gets a full check up they can give him or her any medication needed. Also a swift transfer can be arranged to transport you into hospital as and when it is needed, if at all. You may experience bumps along the way but stay on your path, remember all your preparation and focus on yourself and baby.

Seyi asked if he should fill the pool as he was quite sure baby was going to make an appearance soon. The midwife said she needed to examine me first but from the looks of things it’d still be a while… I seemed too calm and she knew women in active labour… they made a lot more noise than this… well, not all of them(!)

So we began the challenge of a vaginal examination… the midwife patiently waited to examine me, stopping and re-attempting a few times as surges kept interrupting us. When she finally got down to it she paused and said she couldn’t get the speculum in. In that moment genuine fear washed over me… what if she told tell me I was only 2cm dilated… I really and truly could not take much more… Instead, I heard the sweet words ringing in my ears: “I can see a full head of hair, you’re fully dilated, baby is coming now!”

The midwife turned to Seyi: “start filling the pool… quickly!” her words trailed down the hallway as Seyi had already run off to turn on the taps!

I totally forgot about the gas and air and started focusing all my energies on breathing baby downwards. The instructions for the pool said it would take 30-45 mins to fill… we hoped we would have enough time! The midwife repeated how she had wanted me to go into hospital to have antibiotics due my waters being broken prematurely but Orilami had other ideas and knew exactly where he wanted to be born. Since I was fully dilated they weren’t taking me anywhere, we would have the peaceful home birth we wished for after all.

Little did I know, the NHS also has a time limit for how long you’re allowed to be fully dilated before they want to yank the baby out of you. My midwives (by now there were two, one for me one for baby, as well as a student, and Ayo… talk about VIP treatment!) knew I wanted to breathe down baby with the natural rhythm of my body, but after some time and lot’s of hushed whispering I was told that if it took much longer they would have to get involved. What? But I was fully dilated… my baby was literally on it’s way out what other measures could possibly be necessary? Ayo quietly told me that if it was ok, I had better start pushing so that they wouldn’t have any other outlandish ideas about how they might “help” get the baby out (in hospital no less!) Didn’t have to tell me twice, I began pushing my ass off, almost quite literally.

Meanwhile, the pool that had taken forever and a day to fill was almost to the minimum line and I just hopped in before anyone had a chance to say the word “hospital” one more time. The warm water felt incredible and my tired muscles were able to take on various positions like squatting for a lot longer than on dry land. This is where regular yoga in the build up to labour became helpful. During pregnancy I discovered a lovely little YouTube series called Apple Yoga with five short pre-natal yoga sessions that were simple and felt good to my body. I got into a routine of doing one or two of them in the morning and found them a great way to stretch my body, connect with baby and build some muscle strength for labour. As with everything, there is no rule about how much or how often you need to do things to prepare for birth, just listen to your body and do what feels best in that moment — in fact this in itself is perfect practice for when surges do arrive.

So, there I finally was, in the birthing pool in our tiny studio flat with 3 midwives, one student and Seyi all around me. Curtains were drawn, candles lit, lavender oil burning, and relaxing music playing. It was perfect. Orilami is a baby of the water and I guess he just didn’t want to come out until I got into that pool. A lot of pushing later, at around 6pm, Seyi held onto me from behind as he sang a song to let baby know it was time to meet us, and not long after, watched Orilami swim into the world. It was perfect, for us. Just as each and every baby is completely unique, so too is their birthing journey. We really cannot predict what will happen in the moment but we can certainly prepare ourselves and trust that the best thing for us (mama and baby) will surely happen if we just allow it to.

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I had laboured for 12 hours from my first surge to when baby finally appeared. I had no tears and no bleeding. I credit that with the arnica I had taken earlier on when surges began as well as sheer good luck and the preparation we had done. Ladies, do the perineum massage. In fact, I urge your partners to help you with this in the weeks preceding labour, it truly can make all the difference in the ‘ring of fire’ moment when you need to get your baby’s head out.

In fact, birthing partners are incredibly important. I could not have achieved the birth I did without Seyi and Ayo, they were both complete pillars of strength and support. Choose your birth partner(s) wisely. Think about what they will bring to the process, and above all, ensure they will support all of your choices. Also significant is where you choose to birth your baby. In the end, baby will decide where he or she wants to be born, all you need to is listen to that intuition when it comes to you. I am so grateful Orilami was born in the peaceful environment that is our home. It may be small but it is full to the brim with positive energy and love.

On a recent trip to Lagos I remember discussing giving birth with Mama Vali, a woman I have deep and profound respect for. She told me she gave birth to her four babies at home and when I told her that Orilami had a home birth she shook my hand and patted me on the back with pride. Besides home birth feeling like a badge of honour with Mama Vali, I mainly felt so grateful to be able to have a shared experience with somebody I admire so much, yet whose life is so different from my own. The room where Mama Vali and her family live is smaller than our “tiny” flat, and she shares a bathroom with more than ten other families (who are also living in one room each). For Mama Vali, there was no birthing pool, no candles, no hypnobirthing book to study, no calming music playing. She chose to give birth at home because for her it was a lot cheaper than going into hospital. Also, I believe, because she hadn’t had fear drilled into her around giving birth. Giving birth in Nigeria is very much a normal part of life, so why not do it in your own home?

I delivered my placenta naturally – by pushing it out with one minute to spare before they wanted to inject me (once again, there is a time limit for how long you’re allowed before they force your placenta out of you!)

My midwives thanked me for giving their student such a positive first home birthing experience. One of them even told me that said she hopes she can give birth like this when the time comes for her to have a baby. Ayo told us it was the most beautiful birth she had ever witnessed. I did it. No medical interventions needed. No fear.

Birth is beautiful. The female body is incredible and I bow down to it in all its powerful glory. Midwives (and doulas) are super-humans and I have an incredible amount of respect for them.

Pregnant mamas – whatever birth you wish for yourself and your baby – you can achieve it, and you will.

bobo

Grace is Beauty.

I’m dedicating a blog post to the incredible women I met picking tea leaves in the hills of Munnar, South India. They made my heart burst. They are some of the hardest working women I have ever had the privilege to meet. They surrounded me with smiles and stories and each wanted their photo taken. So here, I want to share the grace & dignity that oozed from these wonderful women. I was unable to write down their names… but I can still feel their energy now. Powerful, beautiful. They reinforced a personal mantra that started swirling around in my mind when my journey of consciousness escalated in the autumn of 2013….

Grace is beauty.

A reminder to myself in those moments when fears and insecurities start to over power the true and authentic me… when my Ego is triumphing over my Soul. It is a call to myself to awaken… and to do so gracefully. To not let old fear-based habits take over, just because they used to. Just because they could. Now I can add calling on the strength of these women to those moments when I stumble, feel weak, or lose my way a little.

Deeply grateful.1960847_10101514666233588_8183269421795565740_o(1) 10006099_10101514673414198_959197032084028907_o(1) 10700494_10101514674237548_6691893346853477965_o(1) What helps your Soul shine through a stormy moment?